Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Friday Five: Christmas Traditions

This is the current RevGalBlogPal Friday Five:  Whether a RevGal or a Pal most of us in this cyber community have enhanced responsibilities during this time of year. We also have traditions - religious and secular - that mark the season for us in a more personal way.

For this Friday Five please let us know five of the things that mark the season for you.
1.  Music:  I have an enormous collection of Christmas music which I do not allow myself to play until the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I held out until Advent this year which is a goal I had set for myself.  I have to admit that reaching that goal was more an accident of circumstances.  Had I not had Thanksgiving company, a Saturday full of busy-ness, I most likely would have caved.  My husband complains a bit about my collection because it's 97% traditional carols, classical, and religious, and only 3% secular holiday music.  And by traditional carols, I mean carols sung by choirs or by the great standard vocalists of yore: Andy Williams, Tennessee Ernie Ford ,  Perry Como, for example, or instrumental versions (Windham Hill recordings, Manheim Steamroller, and recently the Transiberian Orchestra) of the same. My absolute favorite Christmas album is one from childhood.  It's a recording of a concert by the Harry Simeone Chorale.  The music selections followed the scripture readings for the season --and the carols are interspersed with the readings.  Unfortunately the vinyl is scratched in several places, but I still listen to it several times a season.  A couple of years ago, a CD with the same name by the same choir was released, but the music selections were changed and the scripture readings were omitted.  Not nearly as good!  Another must-listen is also from the past - John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album based on a TV special from way back when.  I've branched out a bit, with Jewel, Charlotte Church, and a few other more modern musicians, but I definitely trend traditional.    The last time I counted, I had more than 50 CD's and about a dozen vinyl recordings on the Christmas shelf.  

2. My tree:  Our tree is huge, and it's live. I prefer balsam fir which is readily available here in New England.  We plan to go pick it out today, but it probably won't be put up until next weekend.  My tree never comes down until Epiphany, or the Saturday after Epiphany.  My  Cuban father taught us that the Three Kings didn't arrive on Christmas, but on January 6th when they arrived bringing gifts for Jesus.  If he had had his way entirely, we wouldn't have received presents until then, but my stubborn Yankee mother convinced him that Santa Claus arrived on Christmas Eve after we were fast asleep!  We did occasionally put straw out for the camels on Epiphany Eve when I was really young.  Our tree is full of a grand mishmash of ornaments - many handmade by our sons over the years, some collected over the years on their behalf --- for many years our tree was full of Star Wars ornaments, but they have found a new home with the son to whom they belonged, assorted antique glassblown creations, and sundry others.  Every year I think I want to do a theme, but every year I realize that the pastiche of ornaments represents our life.  And the lights on the tree have to be multi-colored, tiny, and non-blinking!

3. Stockings:  In my childhood home, we hung our stockings on the mantel or stair banister in the houses that didn't have a fire place.  Sometime during the night Santa came and filled them.  He placed them at the foot of our beds.  We were allowed to wake up early (but not before 4 am!) and open our stockings, but we had to stay in bed until at least 7 am!  I have such wonderful memories of tiptoeing over to the windowsill to turn on the electric candle in the window, and then my sister and I (we shared a room) would go through our stockings in that warm, dim light.  When my parents FINALLY awoke,  all 5 of us children would all gather on their bed and share the delights of our stockings with them.  They were always, always convincing in their surprise over the treasures we'd received. That's probably one reason why naive, trusting me didn't know for sure the truth about Santa until I was 14!   My own kids enjoyed a similar tradition but they went one better once they reached high school.  They started filling a stocking for us.  We love the stockings our kids fill for us!  They give us the most ridiculous gifts which we thoroughly enjoy!

4. The Manger:  Growing up my mom had a cardboard stable with a fold down flap.  Inside were plasterish figures of Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus.  On the fold down flap were the stable animals, shepherds, and the Three Kings.  Somewhere along the line, Mom acquired 3 plastic Wisemen on brown camels.  So our Nativity had SIX wisemen.  Over the years, the plastic camels lost a leg or two, and were propped up with matchstick or popsicle legs.   Who took ownership of that manger scene when we were clearing out my parents' house after their deaths was one of the toughest decisions we made as siblings!  A couple of years before my mother died, she bought me a Willow Tree nativity which I treasure.  It's on the sideboard in my dining room where we can see it daily.  It's the first decorating I do for the season.

5: Window lights:   I have 24 windows that need window lights during December and most of January.  It's the chore I hate most about decorating, but it'a also a must.  I spend the better part of an afternoon plugging in all the lights and setting all the timers, and then spend the better part of the week, getting all the timers synched.  Some day I will splurge and buy the automatic battery operated candles, but so far, the budget doesn't stretch to the outlay of cash, although I think in the long run they will cost me less.  My lights have to be warm white too.  And no twinkling!!

And the bonus? Tell us one thing that does absolutely nothing for you.

Blinking, flashing, garish light displays, especially when accompanied by music.  A new local tradition is a huge light display on the local Catholic school that has been choreographed to music. It's a donation from a prominent business in town, and it draws many visitors. But it does nothing for me.   I don't like garishness, I guess.

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